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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I join the many who have valued your sage wisdom through the years. This letter is in response to "Brian Chiedo of Dallas," who wrote that the English teacher should not teach sex education but stick to what she is employed to teach.

Abby, my wife is a ninth- and 10th-grade science teacher at our local high school, Travelers Rest High. Three years ago, our school developed a new class called Community Service. Its purpose is to actively involve students, primarily juniors and seniors, in various civic activities.

Each day, these kids leave their school for an hour and a half to learn lessons about life by volunteering in nursing homes, feeding the homeless at the local soup kitchen, helping to distribute food to the needy at the local food pantry, mentoring preschool children at a day care center or working at city hall. The education these students receive is invaluable, and at the same time, they are giving back to their community.

None of these benefits would have been possible if my wife -- and other teachers -- had "stuck to the subjects they were hired to teach." How proud I am of my wife, the science teacher who volunteered to develop the curriculum and "teach" this pilot class.

Our community is very fortunate to have teachers who are willing to look for subjects that need to be taught and who never stop looking for ways to communicate with and reach our young people -- even when the subjects fall outside the realm of traditional instruction. -- RICK BLACKWELL, MARIETTA, S.C.

DEAR MR. BLACKWELL: Thank you for your thought-provoking letter. You should indeed be proud of your wife and her colleagues who have improvised an original and creative way to stimulate your community's most precious resources -- its youth and its educators. Bravo!

DEAR ABBY: Last year a close friend and her husband took early retirement, bought an RV and have been traveling ever since. She has always written lots of letters to relatives and friends, but now she writes daily diaries, detailing what they had for meals each day, what she bought at the discount store and the daily temperature. Then she photocopies and sends the same "letter" to everyone. Sometimes we get as many as 12 typed, single-spaced sheets (front and back) of their daily activities.

Abby, I do not have the time or desire to hear what they ate (in one letter she gave us a full description of their illness after a bad meal!) and how much mileage they made on a tank of gas. I suppose I could just toss the letter when it arrives, but I worry that she will say something important somewhere. That did happen once, on page 5, day 22, when she disclosed that her sister had died. I had to read the whole dissertation to glean that news.

All of us dread going to the mailbox to find the letter from hell. We would appreciate any suggestion you have. -- MAILBOX MADNESS

DEAR M.M.: Unless you're prepared to level with this compulsive diarist, prepare to continue receiving copies of her daily log. You don't say how many friends are involved here, but an alternative might be for each of you to take turns reading one of the "letters" and be responsible for letting the others know the contents.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600